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Compariosn of pre 1914 and wilfred owen's poems

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By comparing and contrasting a selection of war poems, consider the ways in which attitudes to war have been explored and expressed. When considering poetry written post 1900 concentrate on a selection of poems written by Wilfred Owen. War has been an influential topic for poetry for many centuries and through its catastrophic cruelty and sense of patriotism has created some of the most brilliant poets and most controversial poems ever written. With each different war comes different poets who want to write their views on it and just as motives of war differ, so do the opinions of the poets; some see war as barbaric and destructive, whereas others portray it as a way of ennobling oneself. Before the technology and media coverage we have nowadays, stories of battle were passed down by word of mouth and were often written in poetic form so they could be memorized easily. Just as the artillery used in the wars has changed, the way war is portrayed has as well. Before World War 1 began in 1914, it was seen as a glorious opportunity for men to serve and defend their country. In many poems war is compared to a game, for example in "Vitai Lampada" written by Henry Newbolt, the refrain "Play up! Play up! And play the game!" is repeated at the end of each stanza to try and rally the soldiers and ready them for battle. Newbolt uses the leitmotif of comparing fighting to playing a cricket match to ease the pressure off the soldiers by making it seem fun and competitive. ...read more.


The lines: "When the girls line up in the street, Shouting their love to the lads come back," implies the men will be seen as courageous and gallant for fighting. However, Owen explains this is not the case in the lines: "Now he will never feel again how slim, Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands, All of them touch him like some queer disease". The metaphor "like some queer disease" expresses how the women are afraid he may be contagious and how they find him repulsive. Just as in "Dulce et Decorum est", at the beginning of the poem we think Owen is describing an elderly man because he uses the phrase "ghastly suit of grey" which infers old age. But then we discover how he "threw away his knees"; he chose to enlist for the army and that is portrayed a grave mistake, a waste of his life. The line: "Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry" also infers that the man opted to fight as the verb "poured" suggests that he did it himself. In addition, Owen portrays how the boy was not motivated by principles to sign up: "Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts". He had been induced by vanity and also to "please his Meg"; once again the notion of impressing the women is used. Even though his face was "younger than his youth" the line "Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years," shows that the authorities were unscrupulous as they knew he was just a boy but still let him sign up. ...read more.


Owen portrays how there is no time for sentiment of the battlefield in the line: "The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells;" this personification is effective because when a person dies they are believed to be "at peace", but when you die on the battlefield the destruction and devastation carries on around you regardless. Owen portrays how the men came from ordinary backgrounds in the phrase: "sad shires" and he describes how the family of the soldiers' did have funerals for them back at home in the line: "what candles may be held to speed them all?" The devastation of their deaths is shown through the line: "the pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;" suggesting that their girlfriends are sorrowful and also by using the plural it shows how a whole generation of women may not be able to find husbands because so many young men were killed in action. In the last line, a "drawing-down of blinds" is a fitting way to end the poem, but it could also be associated with traditional drawing down of blinds in a room where a dead person lies and furthermore it infers that so many soldiers' lives were now over. I enjoyed reading Wilfred Owen's poetry more than the pre 1900 poetry as it gave me a realistic view of what the effects of war were on the soldiers and their families. World War One was the most devastating and barbaric war to date and therefore I believe that Owen's poetry is more fitting as it gives a personal aspect to the poems, portraying the soldiers as humans, not just as statistics, but also showed them like animals to make the vast scale of the murders evident. ...read more.

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